Importance of Giving Thanks

11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy[a] met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.

15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.

17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

Luke 17:11-19 (NIV)

A dangerous occurrence in relationships is when one person assumes the other person knows what is being thought or felt. This happens far too often and frequently leads to hurt feelings. It is important for humans to make the effort to verbally express to one another feelings and appreciation. By expressing these items, confusion and doubt can be avoided. This helps to bring clarity into the relationship.

In our passage today, Jesus encounters ten lepers who cry out to him for assistance. Jesus responds by sending them to a priest. This is customary when a person appears to be healed from leprosy. The priest had to declare them clean before they could return to regular society. What seems different here is that they were healed on the way, not before they left. They must have believed Jesus would heal them before they arrived at the priest’s location. Then the account shares that only one of them returned to thank Jesus, a Samaritan whose nationality was despised by the Jews. Jesus declares that this man’s faith has made him well.

Here we are reminded of the value in expressing gratitude. Gratitude is one of those feelings that was referred to above. The other nine must have assumed Jesus would know how grateful they are for being healed. They probably wanted to return to their families and former life so quickly that they did not think to take the time to find Jesus and express thanks.

We can be guilty of the same assumptions and being too busy to stop long enough to offer thanks. We do this with one another. We do this even more often with the Lord. Our thoughts can be that others and the Lord obviously know we are thankful so keep moving forward with life’s activities. It can be an unspoken assumption.

Jesus tells us that the opposite is true. Jesus shows how much it means to be sought out and thanked. The expression of these assumed feelings make a significant difference. Take time to pause and give thanks when someone does something for you. Make the time to express your gratitude to the Lord. Afterall, the Lord gave you the air you just breathed and so much more.

Thoughts and Ways

Seek the Lord while he may be found;
    call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways
    and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
    and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 As the rain and the snow
    come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
    without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
    so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
    It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
12 You will go out in joy
    and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
    will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
    will clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
    and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the Lord’s renown,
    for an everlasting sign,
    that will endure forever.”

Isaiah 55:6-13 (NIV)

Each of us establishes an approach to life over time. Our thoughts and behaviors develop out of our experiences, our context and our culture. An understanding of relationships, family and marriage is a prime example of this. We define family according to what we have witnessed within our own family. The manner in which we treat others is influenced by how we have been treated and observed others being treated. In marriage, the type of mate we choose along with the roles and behaviors once we are married are products of the experiences and definitions which have been presented to us. We then project these thoughts and behaviors upon others, assuming they think and behave exactly as we do.

The reading for today begins with the instruction to seek the Lord. As part of this quest, we are told to abandon our ways and thoughts while turning to the Lord who will show mercy and pardon us. Once we have found the Lord, we discover that God’s thoughts and ways are different than our own. The Lord’s thoughts will produce and bring forth goodness for all creation. This discovery will lead to us experiencing joy and peace. Our response will include songs in concert with all of creation.

Often we attempt to project our thoughts and behaviors upon the Lord. We assume God will act and behave exactly as we would in any giving situation. The definitions and responses we utilize in our daily interactions are presumed by us to be the same ones utilized by the Lord. Today’s passage points out the error in these thoughts and assumptions.

We must first seek the Lord. In doing so, it is necessary for us to leave all preconceptions behind. When we spend time in Scripture and prayer, we will discover that some of our understanding of who God is needs to change. We cannot translate our approach to life into being the Lord’s approach. Instead we must strive to adopt the Lord’s ways and thoughts. Then God can produce positive results for us and all within the world.

Listen

“Can you hear me now?”

For nine years, starting in 2002, this was a question we heard on our televisions multiple times a day. The question was part of a commercial for one of the nation’s larger cellular service providers. A man would be on his phone in a variety of locations and would ask this question to whoever was on the other end. The point of the commercial was to state how wonderful the signal reception which this company provided was, even at the most remote locations.

Imagine if this question was not being asked as part of a television commercial but instead was a question which Jesus may be asking of you.

Last week, my husband and I were engaged in a discussion about words found in John 10:27. Here Jesus is talking with a group of Jews who are demanding a straightforward answer to their question of his status as Messiah. He is indicating to them that he has already answered that question for them, but they failed to listen and believe. The question of which arises for readers today is, “Am I listening for his voice?”

It is one thing when someone is physically present, or connected via technology. There may still be some challenges in listening for a person’s voice such as external noises or a signal problem, but barring these and similar challenges the ability to hear someone is a simple task. However, Jesus is now not physically alive on the earth as he was when these words were shared with the Jews. We may have a good argument in regard to the struggle with listening for his voice. Or do we?

One of the problems which seemed to be present during the dialogue with the Jews is the ability to hear versus the willingness to listen. The Jews did not state that they were not hearing what Jesus was sharing. Jesus did not say that he thought the Jews were not hearing. Yet, having the ability to hear does not mean that a person has chosen to listen. Listening requires the person to go beyond the sounds and make an effort toward understanding. It requires us to put effort into taking the sounds we hear and making sense of them. First, by shaping sounds into words and then by finding meaning in those words. Next, we have to take into account a whole list of elements such as context, nonverbal cues, and purpose. Our own assumptions and expectations also impact our listening. We tend to reject anything that causes conflict in our own understandings.

What about us then?

As mentioned above, we do not have the physical presence of Jesus which can create challenges in our listening. We hear what Jesus said as recorded by writers of Scripture. We hear the interpretations which Bible scholars, pastors, Sunday School teachers, and others have given concerning Jesus’ words. But are we listening?

Listening requires us first to put down our own assumptions and expectations. The Jews were getting hung up on the fact that Jesus was not fitting their assumptions and expectations of what the Messiah would be. Each of us have formed our opinions of the nature of Jesus (and God) so when we hear what Jesus may be saying, we want those ideas, thoughts, and words to fit into our already formed view of Jesus.

Listening requires taking the time and making the effort to locate Jesus’ voice. Each of us will do this differently. For some, this will require us to find a quiet space in our lives to listen for Jesus. For others, the need to surround ourselves with trusted spiritual advisers will open us to Jesus’ voice. Developing a trust will be necessary for others, trust that Jesus is still speaking in ways that do not require physical sounds or presence. This trust is closely linked to faith.

If Jesus were to ask you the question, “Can you hear me now?” Would he find you listening?